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South African Airways denies talks with Qatar Airways

Qatar Rwandair Alamy/Barry Vincent
A RwandAir aircraft at Kigali Airport: Qatar Airways and RwandAir are partners in a project to open a major international airport in Kigali by 2028
  • RwandAir seen as most likely target
  • ‘Vital SAA stays under state control’
  • Qatar, Rwanda already partners in airport

South African Airways has denied it is talking to Qatar Airways about an equity injection, as observers suggest RwandAir is the Qatari carrier’s most likely target.

Qatar Airways’ CEO Badr Mohammed Al Meer set rumours racing earlier this month when he revealed that the state-owned airline was “at the final stage of an equity investment” in an airline in the southern part of Africa.

Analysts had suggested this involved South African Airways (SAA), which has endured a turbulent time since going into bankruptcy protection in 2021. 

But SAA’s interim CEO John Lamola said there would be no deal with Qatar Airways. He said it was vital that SAA remained under state control as part of any capital injection.

“We are South Africa’s national carrier… and we’re looking for a partner that will respect the mission of SAA,” he said.

According to aviation expert and AGBI columnist John Grant, a partner at the UK-based Midas Aviation, that leaves RwandAir as the potential destination for Qatar Airways’ investment.

“If it isn’t them, then there are few others that would be suitable,” he said.

The Qatari flag carrier and Rwandair already enjoy a code-sharing agreement.

The two are also partners in a project to open a major international airport in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, by 2028. Qatar Airways has a 60 percent stake in the Kigali project, which was valued at $1.3 billion when the agreement with Rwanda was signed in 2019.

RwandAir’s CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo told a forum in Doha earlier this mont that construction of the airport was already in progress. “We’re about to finalise the horizontal works and move to the vertical. We’re looking at 2027 and 2028 in terms of the airport being operational,” she said.

Qatar Airways currently flies to 31 destinations across Africa.

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